If New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist walked through Times Square yesterday afternoon, he might not have received as many well wishes from fans as ESL teacher Pete Heinz did from students as he walked through the halls of PS 143 shortly before dismissal on Friday.
Just like Lundqvist leading the underdog Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals, Heinz, fueled by cheers from adoring spectators, ran 15 miles around the ball fields adjacent to the school at 34-74 113 St. in Corona to raise money for the underequipped Super Sonics Running Club he helped create earlier this year.
The run raised around $2,000, money Heinz, of Richmond Hill, says will go specifically toward the purchase of uniforms for the dozens of students who actively take part in the program.
“We don’t have uniforms. Some of our guys run in fake Timberlands,” Heinz said. “It’s 80 degrees out there on the blacktop. It’s ridiculous.”
By the time Heinz was scheduled to run, 88 faculty members had already wrote down their names and the amount of money per mile ran they planned to donate on a large list on the wall of the school’s front entrance.
Many of those staffers led their students in chants and cheers as Heinz walked through the halls of the school before his run, with some kids showing him their handmade signs wishing him well.
Dozens of students and staff joined parents picking up their children to watch Heinz, Super Sonics co-founder Stacy Adams, a fourth-grade special education teacher, and numerous students run laps around the fields.
While Heinz and Adams ran in the appropriate gear, the students ran in whatever they wore to school that day, much like the club did at the first New York Road Runners-sponsored track meet it was invited to at Randall’s Island a few weeks ago.
“It’s cool to be scrappy but we do want to look like a force,” he said. “If I can get a shoe store to give the kids a break if they say ‘We’re members of the Super Sonics’ or an apparel store to help make us look more like the other clubs that show up for the meets, it would be great.”
Created in March, the club drew overwhelming interest from the start, Heinz said, with around 250 children signing up to join.
The group practiced indoors until the weather warmed up a few weeks ago, when organized practices moved outdoors to the makeshift track Heinz, who ran the full 1995 New York City Marathon, jogged around.
According to Heinz, the school doesn’t have enough money in its budget for uniforms for the Super Sonics runners.
Principal Jerry Brito didn’t address financial concerns when asked, but he did commend Heinz for his efforts to help expose the students to the importance of keeping physically fit.
“I want teachers to bring their passions, and that’s something he’s passionate about,” Brito said. “My philosophy is to try to expose them to as much as we can, so when he came to me with the idea, I thought it was great. It gives kids an experience they might not otherwise have.”
The 24-year-old Adams, who helped raise money in her own way by selling chocolate in her classroom, has been thrilled with student interest in the club.
“I walk down the hall and I feel like a celebrity now,” Adams, a Maspeth resident, joked. “But I feel like they need to know there’s more to education. Fitness is a huge thing and being a personal trainer, I wanted to take that to the school.”
Assistant Principal Karen Pang also highlighted the buzz Heinz created throughout the school this year, describing every student and teacher as being “huge fans” of his efforts.
“When you walk in, you can feel the love. Everyone is rooting for him,” Pang said. “This is why I want to be in a school like this.”
Heinz expects the Super Sonics to be active even after the school closes for the summer.
He hopes the group will host races this summer, with a 5K run and mile-long events touted as possibilities.